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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

zucchini flowers
blooming on the scene

by Laura Pazzaglia
(return to food)

Once tossed by marketers, farmers, and gardeners Zucchini flowers are gaining popularity in America. They are popping-up at local farmer's markets, boutique produce stores and on the menus of gourmet Italian restaurants everywhere.

In Italy, you will often see zucchini for sale with the flower still attached. In this waste-not society the flowers have been consumed ever since the squash was introduced from America. Zucchini flowers are a great source of folic acid and are often "prescribed" for those who are lethargic, anemic or pregnant!

I can personally attest to the pick-me-up quality of zucchini flowers. Every time my mother whipped up a batch, everyone around the table would quickly begin giggling and be filled with good cheer (read on for my theory on this).

A blossom by any other name...
Although all the recipes below specify zucchini flowers, you can actually use the flower from any squash. They will vary in texture, size and flavor so adjust your cooking times to the consistency! For example, spaghetti squash blooms are a little smaller and frailer that zucchini while pumpkin blossoms are tougher and need slightly longer cooking time.

Buying or harvesting
Zucchini flowers have a very short shelf life and usually need to be used within a day or two of being picked from the plant, so be sure use them the day you buy them or, at the very latest, the next day. You may be given a choice of male or female flowers. Both are edible but you'll find that the females are slightly more robust (with larger innards and a little zucchini for a stem) which just means they'll need to cook a little longer.

Look for zucchini flowers at your local farmer's market or boutique produce store during the summer.

If you're growing your own squashes and don't want to disturb the production, harvest just the male flowers (leaving one behind for pollination). If, instead, you have the universal problem of more zucchini than friends who will accept them - then go ahead and harvest the females as well! The females are the ones with the little "zucchino" for a stem (right in the image below).

Cleaning & preparing zucchini flowers
An hour or two just before cooking, place the flowers in a colander and rinse them well inside and out with cold water. Gently tug the petals open and fill with water. Stick you finger inside the flower to dig out any insects that may be trapped inside. If the flowers are not dry by the time you're ready to cook with them, just pat them lightly dry with a paper towel.

While some zucchini flower connoisseurs advocate removing the innards of both male and female flowers, others prefer leaving them in with no ill effects. Personally, I leave the flower as intact as possible to get the most vitamins and nutrients from this rare treat -- I suspect this may also contribute to added merriment around the table after consumption.

Here are some delicious zucchini flower recipes from mine and my mother's collection:

fiori di zucca fritti di alice - alice's deep fried zucchinin flowers
My mother Alice would often whip-up a batch of fried zucchini flowers for my sister and I to much on as a summer treat. After we moved to America, she adapted her recipe to replace the regular flour & egg batter with Japanese Tempura! This recipe works with both.

Buy Tempura batter or make a batter with one egg, some flour and milk or water and garlic powder. Refrigerate the batter for one hour before using it. Dip the flowers in the batter and then into hot oil. As they become crispy, remove them with a slotted spoon onto a large plate covered with a paper towel. When they have all been cooked, put them on to the serving dish and keep in the oven at 175 until it is time to serve.

Fiori di Zucca Ripieni e Fritti - Stuffed & Fried Squash Flowers
10squash flowers
2 medium potatoes
2 zucchini
1 egg
2 tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano
1 tbsp. extra-vergine olive oil
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 400� F. Boil, drain and peel the potatoes. Pass them through a sieve and put the pure' in a bowl. Scald the zucchini and pass them through a sieve or mash with a fork. Add them to the potatoes, along with the egg, grated Parmesan and oil. Season with marjoram, salt and pepper. A chopped clove of garlic can be added to the filling, if desired. Mix thoroughly and stuff the flowers. Fry the flowers in boiling oil, then drain them, put them in a baking dish and bake in a 400� F. oven for 10 minutes before serving.

Minestra con fiori di zucca - Soup with Zucchini Flowers
1 lb. zucchini flowers
1/2 cup olive oil
1 small celery stalk,diced
1 small onion
diced pepper
1 qt. chicken broth
1 garlic clove, minced

Chop the zucchini flowers finely. Leave 4 to garnish the soup adding them to the cooking broth during the last 5 minutes. Saute onion, garlic, and celery with the oil and continue to cook until nearly tender. Add broth, already hot, then add the zucchini flowers. Continue cooking at a simmer for 30 mins. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 4.

Fusilli ai Fiori di Zucchino - Fusilli with Zucchini Flowers
20 zucchini flowers washed and cut lengthwise into strips
1 small onion cut into slices
olive oil
red pepper flakes or powder
one small zucchino cut into cubes
1 lb of Fusilli

Saute' the onion slices, add the zucchini and cook gently for 5 minutes. Finally, add the zucchini flowers and salt. Cook the pasta, drain it and add the vegetables, some grated pecorino cheese and some olive oil and red pepper. Serve with additional pecorino cheese.

Serves 4

Vermicielli al Sugo di Zafferano - Spaghettini in saffron sauce
500 gr. Vermicelli
1 onion
1/4 lb of zucchini flowers
3 fresh sausages
extra virgin olive oil
1 egg
parsley, salt and pepper
grated sheep's milk cheese
tomato puree

Gently fry the chopped onion, zucchini flowers and parsley in the oil; add the saffron dissolved in the stock with salt and pepper; simmer for 15 minutes. Cook the sausages in a little water, add the puree and some stock if necessary, cook the Vermicelli "al dente" (rare done), mix well with the sieved sauce, plenty of cheese and the egg yolk over a high flame. Decorate with the sausages and their sauce on top.

Serves 4

Fiori di Zucca alla Certosina - Zucchini Flowers Certosina-Style
Here's a simple, zesty recipe for zucchini flowers drawn from Alessandro Molinari Pradelli's La Cucina Dell'Emilia Romagna.

18 fresh zucchini flowers
3 cloves garlic, minced
A teaspoon of minced parsley
6 anchovy filets, rinsed, boned and minced
Olive oil or rendered lard (about a quarter cup)
Salt & pepper to taste

Saut� the minced herbs and anchovies in the oil, in a skillet, and when the garlic has begun to darken (don't let it burn), add the zucchini flowers. Cook, stirring them gently about, and seasoning them to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. It won't take long for them to be done.

Serves 6.

Source: Italian Cuisine

Risotto ai fiori di zucca - Zucchini flower risotto
16 oz of Arborio Rice
1 onion
10 zucchini flowers
1 envelope of saffron powder
1 cup of dry white wine
1 litro of borth
4 tbsp of butter
4 tbsp of grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
salt & pepper

Peel the onin and chop it finely. Sizzle it with 40 grams of butter. Stirring contiously, add the rice and toast it in the pan with the onion and butter for about a minute. Add the dry white wine and let it evaporate. Then add the borth little by little to allow the rice to absorb it. After about 10 minutes of cooking add the flowers, then prepare the safforn (by melting in in the remainder of your broth) and add it to the rice. Add salt, pepper, butter and cheese to taste. Serve.

Frittata ai Fiori di Zucca - Zucchini Flower Frittata
This recipe requires that you "flip" the frittata over in the pan. If this is beyond your skill level-- as is the case with me -- you can substitute this step by slipping the pan under the broiler for the same amount of time.

20 zucchini flowers
4 eggs
1 bunch of lemon balm
4 tbsp. of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp. of cream

Remove the leaves of lemon balm from the small branches, clean and slice them thinly. In a bowl break the eggs, add the cream, a pinch of salt and stir vigorously with a fork. Add the grated cheese, the lemon verbana and the whole zucchini flowers. Stir. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan, pour in the mixture, cover and cook 4-5 minutes on low flame. Then flip it and cook for another 3-4 minutes .


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